Virgil van Dijk has warned the Tottenham Hotspur players in England’s ranks that it will take time to recover from the disappointment of losing a Champions League final, as the Netherlands seek to take advantage in the Nations League semi-final between the countries.
The Dutch captain, who played a key part in Liverpool’s victory last Saturday, had endured his own crushing loss in the European Cup final the previous season with defeat by Real Madrid in Kyiv and the hangover lingered through the summer.
England have four Spurs players in their 23-man squad but Gareth Southgate is deliberating about resting all those involved in the Champions League final for the game in Guimarães after their exertions at the Wanda Metropolitano.
“I’m completely in Nations League mode and things are fine in my mind,” Van Dijk said. “But I remember last year when I came back feeling bad [from the Champions League final in Kyiv], very disappointed for quite a while. It’s not easy to come back from it. If the Tottenham players play, they’ll want to show themselves and try and win the game. But, for me, it’s been easier this time than last year certainly. Physically it was tougher then, too. Everything is fine now and, mentally speaking, I’m in a better place. I’m ready. There’s a chance to win a trophy here and for us as a group, we want to go for it.”
England have Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold in the squad – all victors in Madrid – and they could be rested on Thursday. Ronald Koeman, though, confirmed his two Liverpool players will start the semi-final on Thursday. “Absolutely, because when you win you’re not tired,” he said of Van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum.
“I’ve experienced that. When you win a title, that makes you eager for more. When you suffer defeat, it’s harder mentally to get yourself together and move on.
“We had a coffee together because I wanted to check on their physical and mental state. But both were so confident and optimistic about the match against England, so I’ll be lining up with my strongest team. They both belong to that XI.”